Seismic Performance

Earthquakes cannot be prevented but sound design and construction based on research and compliance with building code requirements can reduce their effects.

In North America, where wood-frame construction is common wood’s seismic performance is often attributed to the following characteristics:

Wood is lightweight
Wood-frame buildings tend to be lightweight, reducing seismic forces, which are proportional to weight.

Ductile connections
Multiple nailed connections in framing members, shear walls, and diaphragms of wood-frame construction are more ductile, meaning they can yield and displace without sudden fracture.

Code compliance
Codes prescribe minimum fastening requirements for the interconnection of repetitive wood framing members. This is unique to wood-frame construction and beneficial to a building’s seismic performance.

Redundant load paths
Wood-frame buildings tend to be comprised of repetitive framing attached with numerous fasteners and connectors, which provide multiple and often redundant load paths for seismic forces.

Mass Timber and Seismic-Resistive Design
Research and building code development have proven that CLT and mass timber structures can meet or exceed the most demanding earthquake and seismic design requirements. Forces in an earthquake are proportional to the structure’s weight and wood is substantially lighter than steel or concrete.

Photo: VanDorpe Chou Associates
Structures with ductile detailing, redundancy and regularity are favored for seismic force resistance. This structure includes repetitive wood framing and ductile nailed wood structural panel shear walls and diaphragms.